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Ex-aide to both Clintons to leave Villaraigosa's staff after year as chief deputy mayor [Updated]

September 9, 2010 |  4:26 pm

Nearly a year after he became one of two top advisors to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Chief Deputy Mayor Jay Carson said Thursday that he would resign at the end of the month.

Carson, 33, joined the mayor in September 2009, just as Villaraigosa elevated “gang czar” Jeff Carr to the job of chief of staff and set out to refocus his office in his second and final term.

Carson, a former press secretary to presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, had a hand in a major shakeup of Villaraigosa’s staff, including the departure of some officials originally hired by the mayor.

H. David Nahai, general manager of the Department of Water and Power, resigned in October under fire from both Villaraigosa and the utility’s employees union. Cecilia Estolano, the top executive of the Community Redevelopment Agency, departed two months later.

Deputy Mayor S. David Freeman, who handled environmental matters, was replaced by “jobs czar” Austin Beutner, who serves as both first deputy mayor and interim head of the DWP. Gail Goldberg, hired with great fanfare as Planning Department director in 2006, left last month.

Carson, who has an annual salary of $194,000, said he had promised Villaraigosa he would stay a year and had reached that goal. “The mayor brought me in to effect specific change in his office. I worked as hard as I could at his direction to make that change, and I’m proud of the job that I did,” he said.

Since Carson’s arrival, Villaraigosa has hired Beutner and embarked on a series of initiatives, including efforts to revamp the teams devoted to education, business and lobbying the federal government. Carson also worked on the mayor’s effort to jump-start construction of his proposed "subway to the sea" and other transportation initiatives.

Carson had critics within Villaraigosa’s office, particularly after he fired or reassigned members of the mayor’s business team. Some argued privately that he was too eager to oust city officials.

Still, he received praise from Beutner, who said Carson had “a very clear voice about the things that can be done differently, that can be done better, that need to be changed so the city can function better.”

“A lot of people did like Jay,” Beutner said. “They have had different views with him on policy things, but that’s par for the course.”

Carson joined the mayor’s administration after serving as senior vice president of Shangri-La Industries, a company founded by Los Angeles billionaire and Villaraigosa contributor Steve Bing. Villaraigosa’s office spent much of 2009 working with Shangri-La to attract an Italian rail car company to Los Angeles. That effort ultimately fizzled.

Before he joined Shangri-La, Carson worked for Hillary Clinton's campaign. He was also communications director for the Clinton Foundation, a philanthropic organization created by former President Clinton.

[Updated at 5:45 p.m.: Villaraigosa released a statement late Thursday, saying his chief deputy would continue to advise him even after he leaves city employment. Carson will join the board of directors of Film L.A. Inc., a nonprofit group that provides permits for location shoots in Los Angeles, and give Villaraigosa input on economic development issues, strategy and the 30-10 initiative, which is designed to accelerate a series of planned rail projects.

“Whether down the hall or somewhere else in L.A, I will continue to seek out his advice and counsel,” Villaraigosa said.]

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall